Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Yields: Makes 4 to 6 dozen (depending upon size)
Speculaas or Spekulaitus
A holiday tradition in Holland ("windmill cookies"), Belgium, Northern Germany, and Scandanavia.
They can be printed with Springerle molds that are of a low and even depth, or rolled into Speculaas molds that have been prepared by oiling (or using non-stick spray) A famous cookie made from spices. It can be seen year-round but mainly around Christmas.
"Speculaas" is a Dutch culinary specialty.
It is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms. They are typically winterfood, and especially associated with the feast of "Sint Nicolaas" or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. This feast is celebrated on 5 or 6 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.
The name seems to derive from the Latin "speculum" (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of cours images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could recieve a "vrijer" or "vrijster" (lover m/f). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (maybe they can be compared to the "gingerbread men") were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.
The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containing rye flour and honey. These biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
Some Dutch/European specialty stores may have pre-mixed speculaas spice packages.
- 500 g flour
- 250 g butter or margarine
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 125 g dark brown or demerara sugar
- 50 ml milk
- slivered almonds
- 20 g cinnamon
- 10 g ground nutmeg
- 5 g ground cloves
- a pinch of cardamom powder
- a pinch of ginger powder
- Sift the flour over a large cutting board or counter top.
- Sprinkle the baking powder over it, as well as the spices, the salt and the sugar.
- Thinly slice the (hard) butter or margarine and add it to the flour-and-sugar mix.
- Add the milk and hand knead all until there is a firm but malleable dough.
- Pack the dough into a piece of foil and keep in the fridge overnight (to allow the spices to penetrate the cookie dough).
- If you have a ‘speculaasplank’ dust it with flour.
- Press the dough into the hollows, cut off the excess and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- Shake the dolls out onto a dusted counter top.
- Put flat, almond-covered side down on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the size of the dolls.
- If you don’t have a ‘speculaasplank’, roll dough out thinly on a lightly floured board and cut into shapes (windmills and Sinterklaas/Santa shapes are traditional).
- Decorate with whole almonds if using them.
- Place about 2cms apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
- Bake in 180c oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
- Cool 1 minute, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.